Topic 11: Identifying Allergies and Medication Sensitivities


Understanding and identifying allergies and medication sensitivities is a crucial aspect of a support worker’s role. This knowledge is fundamental to ensuring safe and effective medication administration for your clients.

Understanding Allergies and Sensitivities

  • Allergen: This is a substance that can trigger an allergic reaction. Common allergens include certain foods, pollen, or specific medications like penicillin.
  • Sensitivity: This refers to a heightened response to a medication or substance. It may not be a full-blown allergic reaction but can cause discomfort or adverse effects.

The Role of a Support Worker

  1. Documentation: It’s essential to document any known allergies and sensitivities in the client’s medical record. This information should be readily accessible and reviewed regularly.
  2. Communication: Inform all relevant staff about a client’s allergies and sensitivities. This is crucial in environments where multiple people may be involved in a client’s care.
  3. Observation: Be vigilant for signs of allergic reactions or sensitivities, especially when a client starts a new medication. Common signs include hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
  4. Emergency Preparedness: Know the protocol for an allergic reaction, including how to administer emergency medication like epinephrine, if appropriate.

Q&A on Allergies and Sensitivities

  • Q: How should allergies be documented?
    A: Allergies should be clearly documented in the client’s medical record. Ensure this information is easily accessible to all staff involved in the client’s care.

Scenario-Based Example: Handling a Penicillin Allergy

Imagine you have a new client, Mr. Johnson, who reports an allergy to penicillin. Here’s how you would handle this situation:

  1. Immediate Documentation: Record this allergy in Mr. Johnson’s medical records. Ensure it’s highlighted or flagged for easy visibility.
  2. Informing the Team: Notify all staff members who will be involved in Mr. Johnson’s care. This includes other support workers, nurses, and doctors.
  3. Medication Review: Consult with healthcare providers to review Mr. Johnson’s current medications and any new prescriptions to ensure there are no penicillin-based drugs.
  4. Education: Educate Mr. Johnson on the importance of alerting any healthcare professional about his penicillin allergy, especially in emergency situations.
  5. Emergency Plan: Develop an emergency plan in case of accidental exposure. This includes knowing where the emergency medication is and how to administer it.
  6. Regular Check-Ins: Regularly check with Mr. Johnson for any signs of allergic reactions, particularly when new medications are introduced.


As a support worker, recognizing and managing allergies and medication sensitivities are vital components of providing safe care. Through proper documentation, communication, and vigilance, you can effectively manage these risks and ensure the well-being of your clients.